Page images
PDF
EPUB

108

CHAPTER IV.

1769 TO 1779.

First Establishments on the West Coast of California founded by the Spaniards —

Dispute between Spain and Great Britain respecting the Falkland Islands — Exploring Voyages of the Spaniards under Perez, Heceta and Bodega, and Arteaga and Bodega – Discovery of Nootka Sound, Norfolk Sound, and the Mouth of the Columbia River - Importance of these Discoveries.

IMMEDIATELY after the expulsion of the Jesuits from Mexico, the viceroy of Mexico, De Croix, and the visitador, Galvez, directed their attention to the establishment of colonies and garrisons on the western side of California, agreeably to the system adopted for the restauration of the Spanish dominions in the New World.

At that time, little was known, with certainty, of any part of the west coast of America north of the 43d parallel, to which latitude it had been explored by Sebastian Vizcaino, in 1603. The voyage of Juan de Fuca was generally considered as apocryphal, and nothing of an exact nature could be learned from the accounts of the Russian expeditions in that quarter. Upon examining the charts and journals of Vizcaino, descriptions were found of several places surveyed by him, which he strongly recommended as suitable for settlements or naval stations; and; agreeably to his views, it was determined in Mexico that the first establishments should be formed on the harbors which had received from that navigator the names of Port San Diego and Port Monterey. Accordingly, after much difficulty, a small number of settlers, with some soldiers and Franciscan friars, were assembled at La Paz, on the western shore of the Californian Gulf, which had been selected as the place of rendezvous; and thence, in the spring of 1769,* they began their march through the peninsula towards San Diego, the nearest of the places selected for the first establishments, in two parties, commanded respectively by Gaspar de Portola, the governor of the newly-formed province, and Fernando de Rivera, a captain in the army. Each party carried a drove of cattle; the materials and supplies for the colonies being sent in three vessels directly to San Diego.

* This account of the establishment of the first Spanish colonies on the west coast of California is derived from the narrative of Miguel Costanso, the engineer of the expedition, which was published at Mexico in 1771, and immediately suppressed by the government; a copy, however, escaped to England, from which a translation was published at London, in 1790, by A. Dalrymple — and from the biography of Friar Junipero Serra, the principal of the Franciscans who accompanied the expedition, written by Friar Francisco Palou, and published at Mexico in 1787.

The first party of emigrants under Rivera, after a long and painful march, reached San Diego on the 14th of May, 1769, and found there two of the vessels, which, after disastrous voyages and the loss of many of their crews by scurvy, had arrived a few days previous. The other body, under Portola, marched by a still more difficult route, and did not join their companions on the Pacific shore until nearly two months later. A spot having been chosen for the settlement near the entrance of the Bay of San Diego, a portion of the men were employed in erecting the necessary buildings; with the remainder Portola set off for Monterey, where he was anxious also to establish a colony immediately, leaving directions that the third vessel, which was expected from Mexico, should be ordered to proceed with her cargo to that place. This expedition, however, was not successful; for the Spaniards, marching along the eastern side of the range of mountains which border the coast northward of San Diego, passed by Monterey, and found themselves, at the end of October, on the shore of a great bay, which they supposed to be the same called Port San Francisco in the accounts of the old navigators. When they discovered the place of which they were in search, the cold weather had begun; and, the vessel not appearing, with the supplies, as expected, they were obliged to retrace their steps to San Diego. Of this third vessel nothing was ever heard after her departure from the Gulf of California.

In the mean time, the people left at San Diego had experienced great difficulties from the hostility of the natives, by whom they were several times attacked; and, after the return of the governor's party, they were all in danger of perishing from want of food : so that they unanimously agreed to abandon the country and return to Mexico, unless they should be relieved, before St. Joseph's day, the 10th of March, 1770, by the return of one of the vessels, which had been sent for supplies. On that day, one of the vessels did arrive, and, the supplies being found sufficient, Portola again set off for Monterey, where a settlement was effected. During the same year, other parties of emigrants came from Mexico, and new establishments were formed on the coast between San Diego and Monterey; and, as the means of subsistence soon became abundant by the multiplication of their cattle, independently of the fruits of their labor in agriculture, the Spanish colonies in Upper California were, before 1775, in a condition to resist the dangers to which they were likely to be exposed.

Another measure, undertaken by the Spanish government about this time, in prosecution of its plans for securing the unsettled coasts and islands of America from occupation by foreign powers, brought Spain into collision, and nearly into war, with Great Britain.

Soon after the peace of 1763, colonies were formed by the French and the British on the barren, storm-vexed group of the Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic Ocean, near the entrance of Magellan's Strait. The French colonists were soon withdrawn by their government, at the instance of the Spanish king, though not until after an angry discussion: the British ministers, on the other hand, treated with contempt the remonstrances addressed to them from Madrid, on the subject of their settlement. At length, in June, 1770, the British colonists were expelled from Port Egmont, the place which they occupied, by a squadron and troops sent for the purpose from Buenos Ayres by Don Francisco Bucareli, the governor of that province. This event created great excitement in England, and both nations prepared for war; but the dispute was compromised through the mediation of France. A declaration was presented on the part of Spain, to the effect — that the Catholic king disavowed the act of the governor of Buenos Ayres, and promised to restore the settlers to Port Egmont; but that these concessions were not to be considered as prejudicing his prior right of sovereignty over the islands : and the British minister gave in return an acceptance of the disavowal and promise of restoration, without noticing the Spanish reservation of right.* Agreeably to this promise, the British colonists were replaced at Port Egmont in 1771 ; but they were withdrawn by order of their government in 1774, on the plea of the expensiveness and inutility of the establishment, but, as is

* The documents relative to this dispute may be found at length in the London Annual Register, and in the Gentleman's Magazine, for 1770. See, also, - the Parliamentary History, vol. xvi.— the Anecdotes of the Life of Lord Chatham, chap. xxxix. — Thoughts on the Falkland Islands, by Dr. Samuel Johnson, &c. The author of this History may also be permitted to refer to — a Memoir, Historical and Political, on the Falkland Islands -- written by himself, and published in the New York Merchant's Magazine for February, 1842, containing full accounts of all the circumstances connected with this famous dispute.

generally believed, in consequence of a secret engagement to that effect, concluded between the parties * at the time of the settlement

The existence of such an engagement was first insinuated by Junius, in his letter of January 30th, 1771, and was soon after directly charged, in parliament, by eminent members, without reply from the ministers. Johnson made no attempt to deny it in his Thoughts, &c., but, on the contrary, in an edition published after the evacuation by the British, he admits that the “island was, perhaps, kept only to quiet clamors, with an intention, not then wholly concealed, of quitting it in a short time.” That the British ministers did engage to evacuate Port Egmont, soon after it should have been restored, is positively asserted in the Anecdotes of the Life of Lord Chatham, in the Histoire de la Diplomatie Francaise, by Flassan, and in the Histories of Eng. land, by Bisset, Belsham, Hughes, and Wade; while Coote and Adolphus both adınit that an assurance to the same effect was made to Spain prior to the settlement of the dispute. The Pictorial History of England, published in 1841, states the belief as to the existence of the secret engagement, leaving the question as to its truth undelermined. In fine, it was regarded as an established fact, that, at the time of the conclusion of the dispute, an engagement or promise was made by the British government to that of Spain, lo withdraw all British subjects from the Falkland Islands within a short time after Port Egmont should have been restored to Great Britain; and this fact remained unquestioned until the 8th of January, 1834, when Lord Palmerston, the British secretary for foreign affairs, in answer to a protest on the part of the government of Buenos Ayres against the recent occupation of the Falkland Islands by Great Britain, formally denied it, and produced a number of extracts from correspondence between British ministers and their own agents, which he considered as affording“ conclusive evidence that no such secret understanding could have existed," as it is not mentioned in those extracts. The papers cited by Lord Palmerston, and the arguments which he draws from them, are, however, insufficient to change the general belief on the subject; for in none of them should we expect to find any allusion to the engagement in question. There is no apparent reason that the ministers should have informed any of the persons addressed in these letters of their promise to evacuate the islands; while, on the other hand, it was clearly important for them to suppress all proof of their having made such an engagement, which the whole British people would have considered dishonoring. It is no novelty in diplomacy, that an ambassador should be kept in ignorance of matters settled or discussed between his own ministers of state and those of the government to which he is accredited; and the very negotiation by which this dispute was terminated, was carried on through the agency of the secretary of the French embassy at London, while the ambassador himself knew nothing about it.

Equally inefficient to produce conviction is the assertion of Lord Palmerston in the same letter, " that the reservation (with regard to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands) contained in the Spanish declaration cannot be admitted to possess any substantial weight, inasmuch as no notice whatever is taken of it in the British counterdeclaration.” In the first place, no counter-declaration was made on the occasion: the British minister presented, in return for the Spanish ambassador's declaration, a paper containing not a word of contradiction, and which is, as it was styled when submitted to parliament, an acceptance. These two documents - the only ones which are as yet known to have passed on the conclusion of the dispute — cannot be separated in reasoning on their contents, but must be taken together, as forming one contention, admitted by both partics; for it will not be pretended that the Spanish ambas sador delivered his declaration, without full knowledge of the answer which was to be made to it. The silence of the British minister on the subject of the reservation amounts, at least, to an acknowledgment that the fuct of the restitution of Port Egmont was not regarded as a surrender by Spain of her claim of sovereignty over the Islands.

of the dispute. Bucareli, the governor of Buenos Ayres, whose acts had been disavowed by his sovereign, was raised to the high and lucrative post of viceroy of Mexico.

The issue of this dispute between Great Britain and Spain, served to impress upon the government of the latter power still more strongly, the conviction of the necessity of occupying the vacant coasts and islands of America adjoining its settled provinces. Efforts for this purpose were accordingly made, not only on the coasts of California, but also on those of Texas, of the Mosquito country, and of Patagonia, and were continued, at great expense, though with little effect, until 1779, when they were abandoned, in consequence of the wars excited by the revolution which ended in the independence of the United States.

The efforts of the Spanish government were, however, specially directed towards the west coasts of North America; and, in order to give them efficiency, a particular branch of the administration of Mexico was created, under the title of the Marine Department of San Blas, which was charged with the superintendence and advancement of the establishments in that quarter. The port of San Blas, in Mexico, at the entrance of the Californian Gulf, was made the centre of the operations for these purposes: arsenals, shipyards, and warehouses, were erected there; all expeditions for the coasts farther north were made from it, and all orders relative to them passed through the chief of the department, who resided at

that port.

In this manner, before 1779, eight establishments were formed, by the Spaniards, on the Pacific coast of America, between the Californian peninsula and Cape Mendocino; the southernmost of which was San Diego, near the 32d degree of latitude, and the northernmost, San Francisco, on the great bay of the same name, near the 38th. These establishments were, in their character, almost exclusively military and missionary ; being intended solely for the occupation of the country, which it was proposed to effect, as far as possible, by the conversion of the aborigines to the Catholic religion, and to the forms and customs of civilized life.

The military arrangements were all on the most miserable scale. The forts, some of them dignified with the name of castles, were of mud; the artillery were a few old pieces, of various sizes, generally ineffective, and the garrisons were all slender: the men were badly armed, badly clothed, and seldom or never exercised, though they were well fed, as the country was covered with cattle,

« PreviousContinue »